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Top 10 romantic retreats
Whether a spa tub made for two or a tandem parachute jump is your idea of bliss, treat your beloved to a getaway they'll never forget. Here are the top 10 tips for secluded retreats and romantic interludes:
When it comes to stripping off, the hammams of Marrakech are not for the faint-hearted. The traditional bathing ritual comprises a good hour of scrubbing and pummeling while you lay on a stone slab, followed by an all-over slathering with muddy unguents it is an invigorating experience. Closer to home, in Wiltshire, you can book a rasul or hammam treatment in Whatley Manor's award-winning spa. For us, the naked clay rubbing in the private heated chamber was a unique and certainly hot-and-steamy experience. You might look like Mr & Mrs Stig of the Dump for the duration, but boy will your skin feel good afterwards.
For cocktail hour with a difference, come to Sweden and watch the midnight sun. Sitting on the lawn at the fabulous Hotel J in Stockholm with a large vodka and cranberry juice and watching the sun set at quarter past midnight, was a totally unforgettable experience. Looking down over the Saltsjön waterway linking the Baltic Sea to Stockholm, it is a view framed by oak trees, with the sun peeking through the cluster of masts before it dips below the horizon for a few short hours.
Italy's rolling green vineyards are certainly easy on the eye and where better to enjoy a lazy lunch with a view than Tuscany? For a memorable meal washed down with some of the region's best vintage wines, we found Villa Bordoni in Greve-in-Chianti hard to beat. Sink a bottle of Batar, a 2001 vintage from Querciabella, and enjoy the gastronomic delights of this contemporary country retreat.
The floor-to-ceiling windows at Hotel on Rivington, New York, treat guests to jaw-dropping vistas across this iconic skyline. One of the taller buildings in the hip and gritty Lower East Side, you can take best advantage of the goldfish-bowl potential from the penthouse suite. A slight problem came from the glass walls that extend to the bathrooms. I noticed while showering that I had an audience on the neighbouring rooftop. My companion dashed out on to our balcony and asked if my Peeping Tom needed popcorn.
A few years ago it was still a novelty to have a free-standing bathtub in your bedroom, and one of the first hotels to impress us with twin tubs was Hotel du Vin. At their Henley outpost, the Comtes de Champagne and Laurent Perrier suites have glassed-in outside verandahs, each with a large Victorian roll-top bath.
Violet jam or jasmine conserve with another freshly baked croissant, anyone? Why not treat yourself to a long weekend in Languedoc and check into Jardins Secrets, one of the most luxurious boutique hotels in Nîmes. As its name suggests, this is a gem of a hideaway, which has gained a reputation for its breakfasts served in the hotel's lush gardens. Heart-shaped butter pats are a touch Cupid would approve of, while the privacy of this walled retreat right in the centre of Nîmes, an ancient bustling Languedoc town, makes it feel fit for a honeymoon.
If the way to your lover's heart is through their stomach, check into Dar Ahlam in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Here, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and supper all set in a inspiring spot arranged by hotel staff. All locations are private and have a theatrical theme. With impeccable stage management, staff steer you to new surroundings for each mouthwatering meal. Having quickly settled into our role as king and queen of the kasbah, we were enjoying a post-tagine afternoon laze by the pool when a kind soul appeared with impromptu courgette and yoghurt smoothies.
At Vigilius Mountain Resort, there's no shortage of white-knuckle wonders to keep your love affair on its toes. Our reviewer booked in for the perfect thrill: a tandem jump. This involved a jump off the mountains, both of them strapped into dungarees with a parachute, of course. You run until the wind pulls you backwards - hard - until your feet are pedaling the air, and the chute is lifted over pine forests and hills, just like a flying armchair. Landing is an altogether trickier business.
When in Istanbul, why not treat your paramour to a romantic boat ride across the Bosphorus? Having feasted on fish at Korfez just north of the Ajia Hotel on the Asian bank, our hotel researchers hitched a ride back to Europe by private motor launch and were huddled up all the way home, under the moonlight. Sure beats a late-night clinch on a night bus back in Blighty.
For a memorable Asian-style spa experience in the heart of Barcelona, check out the inviting haven that is Hotel Omm. Here, you'll don a slate-grey kimono and comfy Camper flippers and totter past the indoor plunge pool into a sweet-smelling treatment room of Spaciomm spa. Treatments and massages begin with a foot wash in a bowl of rose petals. There's no naff whale music; new-agey yes, but classical-style piano melodies and the occasional wind chime are suitably soporific. Afterwards, you can join your beloved in the relaxation area and doze off on a rocking lounger with black bean-bag masks over your eyes.
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